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Sunday Morning Quarterback, Saturday Edition: UCLA Football Needs to Address the Tackling Problem

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And, the Pac-12 needs to address their weeknight attendance problem.

NCAA Football: Utah at UCLA
This attempted ankle tackle by Leni Toailoa was one of the more embarassing displays of tackling in last night’s game.
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

How ‘bout them...Dodgers?

Yeah, I’ve got to open today’s Saturday edition of the Sunday Morning Quarterback talkin’ baseball.

That’s because in the time it took the Dodgers to dispose of the Red Sawx last night at Chavez Ravine, I picked up my wife from work, navigated my way through Friday night rush hour traffic in the Valley, tailgated (albeit more briefly than usual), watched an interesting first half of football at the Rose Bowl, then took a nap through the entire second half before driving home to catch the end of Game 3 of the 2018 World Series.

OK, that was only mostly true. I didn’t really sleep through the second half of last night’s game, but I kind of wish I did. Hell, the UCLA Bruins defense sure seemed to.

If I were Jerry Azzinaro, I wouldn’t even bother watching the film as I try to correct last night’s mistakes. That’s because you don’t need to watch the film of the game to figure out where UCLA needs to improve.

Every player who played defense last night should be out on Spaulding Field this morning and tomorrow morning and every morning for basic tackling practice because last night’s tackling may have been the absolute worst display of defense I’ve ever seen in all my years watching and playing football.

If I were Jerry Azzinaro, I would start at the beginning. Hell, if it weren’t probably against some NCAA rule somewhere, I might even bring in a guest coach...perhaps a high school defensive coach. But, not just any high school defensive coach. It would be a defensive coach from the freshman team.

Why?

Because those guys are the ones capable of teaching guys how to tackle. I can still remember my freshman coaches drilling us on the proper technique to tackle. “Wrap your arms! Sky your eyes! Rotate your hips!” We did it over and over and over again as freshman.

It was Tackling 101.

Actually, it wasn’t. Calling it Tackling 101 almost makes it sound like a college course. Let’s call it Freshman Tackling, instead. Because that’s what the Bruin defense needs.

The most embarassing part of last night’s awful tackling occurred when Utah Utes running back Zack Moss dragged what looked to be all eleven Bruin defenders for an extra five yards down to the five-yard line to set up Utah’s second touchdown of the second half.

But, believe it or not, that wasn’t the most embarassing part of the game for UCLA.

That came from UCLA’s fans. More specifically, UCLA’s season ticket holders and Wooden Athletic Fund members who couldn’t be bothered to show up for the game.

Last night’s attendance was a dismal 41,848. As small a crowd as that is, it wasn’t even close to the UCLA’s lowest attendance since moving to the Rose Bowl in 1982. That honor still goes to the game played between UCLA and Oregon State on November 7, 1992 when just 32,513 fans showed up. It is, however, the lowest attendance during the Dan Guerrero era.

In fact, the last time so few fans showed up for a UCLA home game, it was when the Bruins played Oregon State on October 18, 1997. That game’s attendance was just 38,165.

Regardless, I sure hope that Larry Scott, Dan Guerrero, Gene Block, and the Pac-12 TV partners saw how small last night’s crowd looked in the cavernous Rose Bowl. If they did, then maybe, just maybe there will finally be a decision made to stop playing these darn weeknight games, at least in Los Angeles. Well, it might not make the TV partners do it because they are using the games to fill programming time.

But, maybe, instead, the Pac-12 should consider instituting a blackout rule like the NFL where the game cannot be televised in the local market unless the game is sold out. This season’s previous low attendance was for the Washington game when 51,123 showed up.

When attendance drops about 20% over your previous low and more than 20% over a win six days earlier, you have a problem. It’s high time that the Pac-12 do something to fix it.


Go Bruins.